Editor’s Note: Please welcome senior goalie and captain, Jake Springer of the Alabama Lacrosse team to MCLA Fan. He will be shedding some light on all things Tide Lacrosse throughout the season. Find out more on Alabama’s lacrosse program here and see of all Jake’s contributions here.
After 8 weeks, 3 road trips and 11 games, we’ve reached the final week of our 2013 season. That can only mean one thing:
It’s Auburn Week.
Alabama and Auburn share a mutual distaste for one another. A sour, deep-seeded disdain. It’s a hatred that dates back to 1893. From 1907 to 1947, our two schools refused to play each other simply because we couldn’t agree on referees.
The hate can be bizarre. In January, PNC Bank was reportedly struggling in Tuscaloosa simply because of their colors: orange and blue. The hate can be nasty. Harvey Updyke, the embodiment of every negative Alabama fan stereotype, poisoned sacred oak trees on Auburn’s campus after an Iron Bowl loss.
To us, the Iron Bowl isn’t a game, it’s a ritual; where pride thinly veils contempt. Though the rivalry was forged on the gridiron, it reverberates throughout every sport. Lacrosse is no exception.
For years, the lacrosse rivalry was a joke. Look back at our past match-ups with Auburn and see for yourself. In 2006, the Tigers beat us 22-0. In 2008, they beat us 22-4. Those aren’t beatings, they’re maulings. But things can change in the blink of an eye. Just ask the Auburn students I spoke with on my campus visit to the Plains. “Alabama hasn’t beaten us in 6 years… and they never will.”
They were referring to football of course, but the same might have been true for lacrosse. In fact, considering Auburn’s national prominence as a club team in the early 2000’s, that streak could have very easily been a decade long. We don’t know. We literally don’t have the records from the games. Whether it was 6, 10, or 16 years didn’t matter because the streak ended my freshman year. Our seniors, Cam Avent and Alex Benizzi, and our coaches, Matt Darby and Cliff White, went absolutely nuts. They had been a part of several teams that had been thrashed by Auburn in the past. As the final seconds ticked away, Darby gave me a bear hug that nearly cracked my ribs. I may have grown up a long way from Alabama, but seeing that kind of emotion from a coach resonated with me. I began to appreciate the rivalry.
The following fall, I went to my first Iron Bowl and gained some new perspective on the rivalry. Since I hadn’t been a lifelong Bama fan, I’d never experienced a loss to Auburn before. Cue Cameron Newton.
I was one of the thousands who cheered as our PA system blared, “Take the Money and Run,” when Newton took the field. I didn’t find myself cheering as much in the second half, when Cam erased a 24-7 deficit to come back and win 28-27, stunning the crowd of 100,000+ in Bryant-Denny. The loss was my most agonizing moment as a sports fan.
That spring, the Lacrosse Iron Bowl gave us an opportunity for revenge. We had a chance to clinch our first playoff berth in 15 years. The only thing that stood in our way was Auburn. Unfortunately the Tigers did more than get in our way; they ran us off the road. Confined to the sidelines in a bulky knee brace, I could do nothing but stew in anger as time ran out. All I could think about was our seniors deserved better. They deserved one more shot.
Last year, we entered the Auburn game with the same opportunity. All we needed to do was win and we’d be in the playoffs. Our 2012 team was the most talented one we’ve had in my time here and yet, despite their losing record, we escaped with a narrow 7-6 win. This was evidence that records and winning streaks don’t matter when it comes to the Iron Bowl. Now that both programs have a bevy of capable players, the game is a back-and-forth battle every year.
This season hasn’t gone as well for us as we’d hoped, but in the end that doesn’t matter. The Iron Bowl is a stage for redemption, an opportunity for excellence, and a chance to cement your legacy as “State Champs.” Auburn is 8-3, with a chance to lock up an SELC tournament berth for the first time since 2009. After a number of frustrating injuries and defeats, Alabama is out of playoff contention but eager to spoil the Tigers playoff chances.
You can call it 7 days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes or whatever you’d like, but make no mistake: this is Auburn Week.
About Alabama Lacrosse
Alabama’s next game is this Friday in Birmingham, AL against the Auburn Tigers. The game will be streamed live on the web and the link will be posted on our Facebook page on Friday. For more information on the Crimson Tide, please visit TideLax.com, like us on Facebook at Alabama Lacrosse Club, or follow us on Twitter at @TideLax.